David Nalbandian injured a line judge’s leg, the first time a tennis player bloodied an official during a tournament on the professional circuit. Police are investigating the incident.
Nalbandian was disqualified from the June 17 Aegon Championships final at the Queen’s Club in London for kicking an advertising board into the leg of Andrew McDougall. London police said yesterday that they are looking into an assault complaint made against the player by an unidentified person.
The 30-year-old Argentine, who was once ranked as high as third in 2006, may lose sponsors as he attempts to climb back from a season-opening ranking of No. 64. He’s 39th in the world before he forfeited the final of the Wimbledon tuneup against Marin Cilic of Croatia.
“If I was advising one of his sponsors, I’d be telling them to drop him today,” Frank van den Wall Bake, who advises companies including Queen’s sponsor Aegon NV (AGN) on sports marketing, said in an interview from Hilversum, Netherlands. “In the top of tennis, this to my knowledge has never happened before,”
None of Nalbandian’s sponsors, which include Argentina’s Banco de Cordoba, had immediate reaction to the case. Aegon, an insurance company based in The Hague, Netherlands, said it wasn’t pleased.
“It is shame for those watching from the stands and on TV that such a great game, and such a great tournament, was ultimately decided in this manner,” Mark Locke, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail. “This is a decision that has been made, through due process, by the ATP.”
Nalbandian is scheduled to play at Wimbledon, the season’s third Grand Slam tournament, beginning June 25. There was no immediate comment from that tournament on his behavior or status for the event.
Nalbandian was leading 7-6 (7-3), 3-4 against Cilic when he was defaulted for unsportsmanlike conduct after reacting angrily to a break of serve. McDougall suffered a bloody gash to his shin where he was hit by the board.
The Metropolitan Police said they were investigating a complaint against Nalbandian without identifying who filed it or whether they had spoken with the player.
Nalbandian turned pro in 2000 and has earned close to $11 million in prize money. He was the Wimbledon runner-up in 2002. He’s also sponsored by racket manufacturer Yonex, French beauty brand Guinot and Argentine insurance company Rio Uruguay Cooperativa De Seguros Limitada, according to his website.
Nalbandian won’t receive prize money of 36,100 pounds ($56,579) and 150 ranking points for reaching the final at Queen’s. He apologized to the crowd and McDougall after the outburst. He was also issued a 10,000 euro ($12,623) fine by ATP supervisor Tom Barnes for unsportsmanlike behavior.
No Other Option
“Once I saw the injury, no, that was not a judgment call,” Barnes told reporters. “I didn’t have any other option.”
Barnes said it’s not the first time he’d seen an incident like the one at Queen’s on the men’s tennis tour, although it was the first time in a final and also the first time blood was drawn.
“Per our normal procedures, the incident will be fully reviewed by the ATP,” Kate Gordon, a spokeswoman for the men’s tour, said in an e-mail.
Seven-time major singles champion John McEnroe was the first tennis player to be disqualified in a Grand Slam event for misconduct since the sport went professional in 1968 when he was tossed from the 1990 Australian Open for breaking a racket and cursing after a call went against him.
In 1995, Britain’s Tim Henman was disqualified from Wimbledon in the men’s doubles, after he struck a ball girl following a missed shot. In the semifinals of the 2009 U.S. Open, an outburst over a foot-fault call cost thirteen-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams the match against eventual champion Kim Clijsters.
In last week’s French Open final, top-ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia received a verbal warning from the chair umpire after breaking a courtside bench with his racket.
Russian-born Anastasia Rodionova, who now represents Australia, was disqualified from the Cincinnati Open in 2007 for hitting a ball toward several fans who were supporting her opponent, Angelique Kerber of Germany. Down 0-1 in the deciding set, Rodionova smashed a ball that hit the front of the stands during a changeover, and was defaulted.
In a televised court-side interview two days ago, Nalbandian initially apologized to the crowd, before criticizing the men’s tour.
“I’m very sorry, I’m very sorry to do that,” he said, as parts of the crowd applauded. “But sometimes you get very frustrated here, on court, and it’s tough to control that. And sometimes I do mistake -- I agree with that. So it’s a very tough moment to end a final like that. But sometimes we feel so much pressure from the ATP, trying to play a lot of tournaments.”
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